Saturday, June 30, 2007

Ah, research

I've gone back to reading Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit in the hope that it will spark some creativity in the research stage of the next book. I'm looking for my "box" to write outside of, as soon as I collect the bits and pieces that will be going in it.

I haven't put a book in San Francisco for quite a few years. I think maybe "Simple Charms" my story in the 1993 Valentine anthology was the last.

Before that I did Marry Sunshine which was set there. It was where we went on our honeymoon eons ago, so I have fond memories of the city. And now I think it may be the site of book # 60.

Sixty? Hard to believe.

Time flies when you're having fun, I guess. Or books do. Well, no, they don't, actually, as anyone who has been reading this blog and listening to me whine about how long it takes to get things right already knows.

What's hard is to be sure to tackle something new and fresh. After sixty books, that's a bit more of a chore than it used to be. Of course the people are always new. But the various ploys are not (marriage of convenience, anyone?). So looking for a new angle is always interesting. And going back to San Francisco should be fun.

I'm still looking. I am getting a better handle on the people. But I don't see much conflict yet. Still having to learn who they are in order to find that. Getting there -- I hope.

I see that ClustrMaps has given me a new map as of sometime earlier this month. It looks weird to see the process starting all over. I got rather used to my other map. Now I need dots all over again. So if you know anyone in the places that aren't dotted (there are lots of empty spots) send them along. The more the merrier.

I noticed from the Neoworx counter that Uruguay, Poland and Sri Lanka have recently joined the list of countries. That's exciting.

But have you seen Kate Walker's list? Good grief, I didn't know there were that many countries!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Pics . . . or That was the week that was

If pictures are indeed worth a thousand words, then I'll let some of the last week's photos speak for me because I'm tired tonight and I'm ready to go to sleep.

Here's a glimpse of Montana from the dining room window.

Then, the wonderful dog and his "mom" the night before the baby shower.

Next, the "goodies" at the shower. We didn't go hungry as you can see.

The baby's furniture, which inspired the painting and rearranging that took place the day after. And the day after that.

The dog "brother" overlooking the rearranging of furniture.

Dad painting and getting ready to share his office.

The shared multi-purpose room.

Now, all we have to do is wait . . . and wait . . . and wait. . .

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Flynn is in!

The editor called yesterday. I wasn't home, of course. So she emailed me and told me that Flynn and Sara are fine, in production and, best of all, the check is in the mail. So, hooray for that.

Now I'm packing my bag and heading to the airport this morning. I'll miss Montana. I always do. I'll miss the son and daughter-in-law and the dog (wonderful dog) and will undoubtedly miss The Great Event of the grandchild's birth in 6-7 weeks or so. But at least I'll get back soon after to meet the new arrival. I can hardly wait (but the new mom and dad can hardly wait even more than I can -- especially mom who is being kicked and pummeled by an energetic babe).

When I get home I'll download the pix off my camera and put up a couple. I wish I'd had my camera with me last night. We stopped to look at a gorgeous house in the hills overlooking the valley with absolutely spectacular views. It's enough to make me want to write a New York Times best seller so I could afford to live there! Probably I'd have to write two. And I wouldn't even need that big a house -- I'd settle for the lot and building a smaller one. But this one was nice -- it didn't have that "cathedral" feeling to it.

I hate that. I mean, it's fine for cathedrals, of course. But for homes, I like places that are livable rather than grand. Not a problem. I'll never be able to afford a cathedral.

Heading for the airport in an hour. Hasta la vista.

Monday, June 25, 2007

The multi-multi purpose room

I got to paint my son's ex-office today.

Actually it is still half his office -- for the moment. Currently it is housing a crib, a dresser, a changing table, a computer, a fax machine, a file cabinet, a bookcase, a mounted deer skull, a badger skin, a stack of historical biographies, a cross bow, and gun cabinet. It's a pretty crowded room.

Fortunately the new occupant won't be needing it for a couple of months so more adjustments can be made.

But real progress was made today. I had no idea we were going to paint. But yesterday, after the shower, when the dining room filled up with loot from the shower (including above mentioned baby furniture), Son decided it was TIME.

When this son gets the bit between his teeth, things really move. We had the room emptied and prepped and two coats of paint were on before dinner. The room began the day a sort of a deep slate blue (courtesy of the former user of the room prior to my son). It is now supposedly white. It actually looks sort of, um, gray. His wife thinks beige would be an improvement. Tomorrow he's going to get another gallon of paint and go for beige.

The painting was fun -- even if tomorrow it's going to be another color altogether. I get to help again as I've got one more day here.

I'm looking forward to it. He is possibly the only son who would allow me to paint with him. Maybe his next oldest brother would, too. He, too, is reasonably tolerant of ineptitude and does not strive for perfectionism. The eldest son wouldn't let me, I know that. The eldest is like his father -- a proponent of the Sistine Bathroom School of Painting.

These are the people who are meticulous, orderly, and basically perfectionists. They are not me. I did not paint our bathroom. The reason I call it the Sistine Bathroom is because my husband did paint it. And when he does anything, he makes sure it is perfect. It was lovely (still is, though he was not the last Michelangelo to paint it. Last time I hired a retired teacher to do it). But it took all summer to get that way.

I like to be meticulous and crazy when it comes to writing books. Not painting. But I enjoyed doing it today. And tonight I get to sleep in the living room with the fish because besides being my son's office and his baby's new bedroom and the gun room, it was also the guest room.

Not tonight.

Got a bit more done on Sebastian. He and his heroine are beginning to come to life. Keep your fingers crossed.

The baby shower was great. When I get home and get things downloaded I may be able to put up a pic or two.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Suitcase ramblings

This morning we opened the front door and the suitcase fell in. No idea how long it has sitting there. Good thing they live out in the country where no one passing by was likely to look up, see a nicely packed suitcase leaning against a front door and decide they'd like it to be their suitcase instead.

I understand it arrived sometime after 2 a.m. at the airport and was picked up sometime after 6 a.m. to jaunt around the countryside with the other wandering luggage as it was, piece by piece, taken home. I find it a little disconcerting that, when I called to see about its location, the clerk told me that the "regular driver" had already appeared and it was probably already there (it was). The disconcerting bit is that this airport, which is really not that big, and this airline (which only has something like 3 flights a day into Bozeman from Minneapolis) needs a "regular driver" to ferry all its misdirected luggage about.

Does this make anyone else want to ask just how many pieces go astray regularly?

Perhaps we should draw a veil over the question. Move on. Yes, good idea.

Spent a part of the day looking at houses and lots in the valley, anticipating the time when we will be back this way on a permanent basis. Amazing amounts of growth here. Scary almost. We'll have to do some real looking -- and thinking.

Currently thinking about Sebastian's heroine. Drawing a blank. Hope she gets her act together soon.

Flynn and Sara are still incognito. Hmmmmm.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Why I drove to Birmingham

I didn't realize it at the time, but apparently the real reason for driving to Birmingham was so that I would have luggage when I got there.

As opposed, say, to today . . . when I do not have luggage because, though it was correctly marked this morning for a flight to Minneapolis-St Paul and thence to Bozeman, the vagaries of air travel have sent it instead to Detroit.

Last time I looked Detroit was not on the way to Bozeman from Iowa. I am especially bemused because when I took the luggage to the woman who was putting them through the baggage checker thingy that x-rays them or whatever it does, she said, "Is this bag going to Memphis or Detroit?" And I said, "Neither. It's going to Minneapolis and then to Bozeman." And she said, "Oh, good. I'll start a new section."

So much for the new section. We know which section it got in, don't we? And so, while I was winging my way west, it was flying east. And by the time I landed and inquired as to its whereabouts, they had discovered it -- oops -- didn't belong in Detroit and so sent it to Minneapolis, where it missed a flight to Bozeman.

But wait, there is another flight tonight. It was due in an hour ago. Did it arrive? No. In fact it's going to be at least three and a half hours late. The baggage person told me it wasn't expected until two a.m. at last update.

I began to have flickering shades of deja vu all over again -- as memories of my last trip out for the wedding last summer came roaring back. And it was all I could do not to say, "Well, I hope you all thought to PUT ON AN EXTRA CREW or the morning flight won't go out due to airline regs that prohibit flight crews from getting less than eight hours (or whatever it is) on the ground. Because there are NOT eight hours between when the plane's crew is landing and the morning flight is supposed to be taking off.

But did they? It will be interesting to find out. It was a different airline who pulled that trick last time. But maybe they both do it.

Am I getting a little testy? Just a bit. Flying has become such an annoyance. It makes driving 825 miles more or less seem like a picnic by comparison.

But the bright side is, I am enjoying the son and daughter-in-law and I got to hear the baby's heartbeat. It pays to have priorities!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

on the road yet again . . .

It seems like I just got home (well, in fact, I did) and I'm off again today. This time I'll be gone a bit less than a week and will just be enjoying the son, daughter-in-law and dog. The not quite born baby will have to wait to be enjoyed for another couple of months. But the shower is Sunday and I didn't want to miss that.

Flynn and Sara have become incognito -- at least to me. I have no idea where they are, if they met with approval or if they are sulking somewhere expecting me to fix them further. So, until I do hear something, they are going to just have to languish. Perhaps they are being copyedited. If so, they are in Canada and I hope Judi gets them and enjoys them and doesn't red pencil them (or me) too much. She's a great copyeditor so I'm sure they'll be well-treated.

Bits and pieces are falling into my "box" that I get to write outside of (once I get something in it). Not sure I'm going to do a collage this time. Maybe. I've still got the Flynn and Sara collage above my computer. I'm afraid to take it down until I know they are safely on their way into production. (Also, hanging it there gets it out of the way).

My son says I can use his computer while I'm visiting, so I expect to be able to get online. I might even shoot a couple of photos from his back door or front door, both of which have very lovely views.

I'm also guest blogging for Kate Walker's 50th sometime soon (I have to write it first) and Kate Hardy's 25th (ditto). I'll send up a flare when the posts go up.

In the meantime, I'm happy to say that my new hero is taking shape.

He's a cousin of Theo's. His name is Sebastian.

And I'm pretty sure I know just the woman to turn his well-ordered world upside down. I'm taking them on my trip with me. We'll see how well they behave.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Answering Questions

I have barely lifted my head from all the course work and home work and great info that I've been learning this week at the Institute for Genealogical and Historical Research at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama.

I'm giving it a big plug here because if you happen to be one of the millions of people who are interested in tracing family and local history, Samford's June institute should be on your Christmas list -- or whatever other list you make that has those things on it that you really want to do.

A few years back when I had pretty much "exhausted" the easy stuff in my research and was focusing on thornier problems, I started reading the journals in the field and discovered the real reason people write journal articles about "The Hassenhoffers of Holmberg: Who were Ambrose's Parents?"

As I don't have any Hassenhoffers, I didn't much care who Ambrose's parents were. And I discovered a lot of other people didn't, either. But they read the article to learn how the researcher solved the problem. And reading it for that reason -- and re-reading it again and again, studying HOW other more knowledgeable researchers have resolved some of their trickier problems -- has been an eye opener.

It also led me to Samford and IGHR. This is where the Big Dogs -- many of the most knowledgeable and practiced genealogical researchers -- ccome to teach the rest of us what they've learned.

And it is where we who are curious enough to want to go beyond the basics and try to learn more about who these people really were in our own families or the areas in which we are interested can go to get some new ideas and more effective methods of doing that research. It's where we can go to learn about different less shopworn sources and, even more, about how to really squeeze what we already know for more clues and, perhaps (heaven forbid) even answers!

This year I took Elizabeth Shown Mills's course in Advanced Methodology and Evidence Analysis. My head is simply spinning with ideas of ways to tackle my elusive Mr Hazel
and to learn more about the neighborhoods of the areas in which I am interested.

Last year I had a heady experience going beyond the basics back in Cornwall when I was doing research. I got into the old manorial records. It was great stuff. And I got some great clues -- and even some answers. But after this week, I can see now new ways of approaching my southern research as well as several of the others that I have.

I also see how this relates to writing (Everything relates to writing!) and to understanding motivation. Faced with five guys who could be Anny Hazel's husband, which one really is? The one who acts like he is -- the one who has dealings with her family, who turns up in the same places they do, who does not show indications of being married to someone else or a footloose bachelor or a man on his last legs.

I'm trying to narrow down who I want to write the next book about. I'm also doing laundry and preparing to fly out on Thursday to visit my son and his wife and the somewhat more than 7/9ths baby. Can hardly wait!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

On the road again . . .

We were somewhere south of Nashville, eating dinner in an Arby's when Willie Nelson came on the piped in music thingy singing, On The Road Again.

It felt like a theme song. We'd been driving about 11 hours by then. We thought we would stop in Nashville for the night, but we got to Nashville shortly after 5 and it seemed far too early to stop. Plus it's only another 3 hours or less to Birmingham. So we continued on.

Turned up here at just past 9 (having had the dinner stop). I was very very glad this morning that we had done it all in one day. Now I just need something for my headache!

Not sure how often I will get back here during the week. But if anyone knows why the "check" light has come on in my car which was just gone over with a fine tooth comb (and wrench) by my local mechanics and didn't have a "check" light on before I took it in and seems to run fine regardless, I'd be delighted to know. I hope it behaves itself.

And just so you know, gas is cheapest in Kentucky. The scenery is pretty nice, too!

Friday, June 08, 2007

Gone . . . me and the book

But we are going in separate directions.

Flynn and Sara have left the building, having gone off cyberspatially to England (they just look like geese). And I am heading to Alabama in the morning.

I stayed up all night last night making the last three chapters of Flynn and Sara track. I am hoping now that, as grueling as this sort of all-night stuff can be, it's something that will prevent Alzheimers down the road. After all, it was like doing a 30+ hour workout in a mental gym.

I think it's a tighter, tauter, tenser book now. I did what I said I was going to do -- cut aabout 15000 words and added another 10000, streamliniing, sharpening the focus. The editor had some good comments and I hope I did a good job responding to them. I asked a friend to read it the other day, after I'd finished seven chapters of it.

She said, "You rewrote the whole thing!" Um, yes.

It's my job. And it's a better book.

Now I'm packing. At 7 tomorrow morning a friend and I are road-tripping it down to Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama for a week of two intense genealogical and historical research courses. She's taking one on Virginia research and I'm doing an advanced research and analysis course. It's one I've wanted to take for probably five years. I never figured I had the skills to benefit from it before.

Now I hope I do. Anything I learn will be of use. I'm sure it's like writing -- the more you bring to it, the more you'll get out of it. I'm hoping I'm bringing enough.

I'm certainly bringing a lot of brick-wall research problems. I don't expect I will get over them all -- or may not even any of them by the time I get back -- but I do anticipate having better ideas of how to approach them by the time I come home next week.

I should be able to get online during the week, though whether I'll have time to post or not, remains to be seen.

If I hadn't already planned this course, I'd have hopped over to England to help Kate Walker celebrate her 50th book tomorrow. She's having the blog party to end all blog parties on her blog this month -- and next. Be sure to stop by and say hello.

Now that Flynn and Sara are gone (at least I hope they are, though they could certainly reappear for "tweaks"), I will be doing a guest blog there myself. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Guys in Towels . . . or traffic spikes

In a fit of something mid-May I signed the blog up for Google analytics. That means I can look at my blog traffic from about a hundred different angles and learn at least five times that many things.

I have been looking over my various angles in the last few days -- when I've permitted my nose to leave the grindstone for a few minutes -- trying to learn something about who you all are -- statistically speaking.

What I have learned is that most of you speak English, however since May 14th there have sightings of eight other languages (how do they know this?) coming onto my blog. Most people read the daily entry and then wander off again. A few people prowl around. Lots of people who "searched" searched for Jess Harper (no fools they!).

Mostly I learned, though, that traffic spikes whenever Hugh appears in his towel.

It's quite astonishing really.

How do you know when Hugh is going to appear? Or do a few of you find out and then tell all your friends?

Because last month I posted Hugh in his towel when I was trying to come up with another hero -- and goodness, what a spike in traffic there was that day! Who knew?

So what is it that you like?

Hugh? The towel? Hugh in the towel? Would other guys in towels work as well?

I notice from the comments that Christa wants Theo and George in towels. Theo and Martha and I are discussing this. George is still in the lab and hasn't been heard from.

But in the meantime, I did a little research (not much because I've still got to finish the damn revisions). You see how hard I work for "content" on my blog? I accumulated, in the process, a few pix of guys in towels. Not many. Not enough time. But someone had to do it. I sort of thought of it as the romance writer's version of comparison shopping.

So, here they are. Enjoy.

And, of course, the one you've been waiting for . . .

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Grooms II Winner is . . .

Hey Gang,

Theo here. We have a winner in the Grooms II contest -- Crystal Broyles!

Congratulations, Crystal. Thanks for entering.
And thanks to all the people who took the time to enter.

I got one of our books (Martha's and mine), The Santorini Bride, and took it to the post office today. So you should get it soon. I also sent Max and Dom emails telling them who won -- so either they or Liz and Kate will be sending you copies of their prizes as well.

I expect you'll hear from Liz right away, but Kate is in the middle of some big 50th book celebration, and Anne tells me she's got a lot to do right now. So if it takes a while to get there from her, please be patient.

Can't be any worse than what happened to Mona in Egypt. She won Dom's contest and Anne mailed her the book before she left for Ireland, and it got there three months later! Air mail! What's more, Mona said that not only did Anne have to pay postage on her end, she (Mona) had to pay for the book to get it on her end, too! Something fishy there, I'd say.

Anyway, I trust you won't have similar problems, Crystal. And I hope you enjoy that book. WE enjoyed the book -- well, the ending anyway. Some of the earlier bits were a little hard on the hero, speaking from experience, you understand.

Anne's deep in the throes of 'ending' her revisions now. So she suggested I come and blog today.

She thinks tomorrow she might have Hugh Jackman come and blog.

I said, "You wish."

She said, "Well, actually, yes, I do."

I suppose that means she'll be posting one of those Hugh-in-a-towel pictures again.

I said, "Isn't that getting a little old?"

She said, "Hugh-in-a-towel will never get old."

Women! Bah!

Monday, June 04, 2007


All the slash and burn is behind us -- well, mostly it is. And while there may be a bit of steaming smoking land in the real world when that happens, what I've got is some good ground to plant some new stuff.

So that's what's happening today -- a bit of re-seeding.

Those of you who have read some of my Code of the West books may remember a cabin in the mountains. It belongs to Taggart Jones's family. Jed McCall and his nephew, Tuck, lived there at the start of Cowboy Pride. Later, after Jed moved to the ranch with Brenna, it became sort of a bolt hole for anybody who needed a place to get away from it all.

When Shane Nichols stole the wrong bride in The Cowboy Steals a Lady, he took her to the cabin. It was where his brother Mace (from A Cowboy's Tears) had lived the year before when he was separated from his wife.

But I didn't imagine I'd ever get to use it in a Presents novel. Never say never, however. The time is here.

I'm looking forward to seeing the cabin again. I'm looking forward to whatever imaginative uses Flynn and Sara put it to. Should be fun. Wish I had more time to actually wallow in enjoying it -- but these revisions have got to be out of here by the end of the week.

Speaking of cowboys, if you haven't just come from Kate Walker's blog, you might want to drop by today. Donna Alward, doing her guest blog in honor of Kate's 50th title, has posted a question about favorite cowboys.

It gave me a chance to write the words: Jess Harper.

Sadly I don't have time to re-visit my infatution with Jess again today. But I will refer you to an earlier post or two which cover the topic adequately.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Slash and Burn

That's what it feels like I'm doing at the moment. Everything that isn't absolutely essential to Flynn and Sara's story -- especially the bits that are not specifically about Flynn and Sara are biting the dust.

Today I cut about 6000 words. They were nice words, too. Enjoyable words. In a 75K story they'd have had a place.

In Flynn and Sara's story they are in a new file that I should be calling "the cannibalization file" because it's where I go to grab bits and stick them back in the manuscript as I need them.

But it truly amazes me how the spine of the story was there (thank you, Twyla Tharp) but I had so many characters and had done so much layering of other stuff that the sharp focus of the book got lost. I think it's back. And the spine is sharper than ever.

I'm not quite halfway through the revisions. At least halfway through what is here. Now I need to start adding in some of the new stuff as well. I mean the "new" new stuff -- not the new stuff which is just old stuff revised.

Oddly I'm getting an idea for a new book, too -- and it's not about any of the guys we've discussed. Hmmm.